Monthly Archives: January 2006

Communityserver 2.0 beta 3

I had a play installing WordPress as an alternative blog engine. Whilst I really like WordPress as a blog application, communityserver has one major advantage – it is built around the concept of a community of bloggers – rather than just the one.

This is exactly the feature we need, and even though the blog experience is not as well featured, the fact that I can hold an unlimited number of blogs within the one space is so overwhelmingly brilliant that I can live with the blog engine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s works fine and is perfectly easy to use – just not as nice as WordPress.

When you visit the site, you get a view of the activity of the whole blogging community, not just each individual. In fact, you can subscribe to an RSS feed at this level and get a syndication for the entire community. I can’t express how useful I think this aspect of the application will be going forward.

I decided to have a go setting up Communityserver 2.0 beta 3. Setup went fine, proving that it wasn’t a fluke when I set up version 1.1 some months ago :-). Initial impressions are very positive – so much so, that I want to use version 2 beta 3 when I expand the blogging experiment next month.

I’m going to move the software off my desktop onto a virtual server, we’re just starting to adopt the virtual technology – a bit late in the day, I know. So it’s becoming semi official! Once I have the software set up, I will begin the arduous task of getting our techies blogging to each other.

I’m not too sure how I’ll tackle that one yet… perhaps it’s time to read Scoble’s book.

The global reader

Following up from the request to specify an RSS Feed Reader for the UK, I have now put together a proposal to set a global standard for use within all affiliated companies across the globe. I’m proposing a tactical product selection as we don’t really know the functionality that will come with IE7 and Vista. I suspect the former won’t be much use, but there may be something in Vista. Of course, MS will probably build their best reader into Outlook for Exchange 12, which I think is due 2007 – would need to check that.

My recommendation is RSSBandit for a number of reasons. For one, being .NET it is highly unlikely to conflict with other applications in our image and it installs as power user – our standard level for users. I’ve already blogged about customising the install.

If this happens, it may be the catalyst for RSS being built into some of our internally developed applications as well as for use in internal communications. That is my hope, anyway.

Using LDAPAuthentication.php with AD on IIS

I had a request for more information about integrating MediaWiki and AD. 

Actually there’s not a lot to it if you are using MediaWiki 1.5.x. You need to get hold of the LDAPAuthenication.php script and drop that in your includes folder and then define a whole set of variables in LocalSettings.php. It really is that simple.

Get LDAPAuthentication.php from here. Just right-click on Version 1.0c and Save As…. I wouldn’t bother reading the rest of that page.

For information on configuration check out these examples.

The one gottcha I had is that we use the sAMAccountName attribute and I wanted to restrict access to an AD group. If you want to do both of these then you must define:

$wgLDAPSearchAttributes = array( “Domain”=>”sAMAccountName” );
$wgLDAPBaseDNs  = array( “domain”=>”dc=domain,dc=com” );
$wgLDAPGroupDN = “cn=groupname,ou=groups,dc=domain,dc=com”;
$wgLDAPProxyAgent = “cn=proxy,ou=adminstration,dc=groups,dc=domain,dc=com”;
$wgLDAPProxyAgentPassword = “”;

Then you probably want to do things like turning off edit rights for not authenticated users etc. which you do using the wgGroupPermissions array. These groups are not associated with the AD groups. I don’t think it is possible to integrate right through to AD at this level. AD integration is merely sign on permissions.

 

Interest in RSS is growing

I had a request from one of the business representatives, we actually have users who are wanting to make use of RSS – about time too. And the request arrives just as we are embarking on setting a standard for a reader.

I had a go at customising the RSSBandit install – hiding the dialog boxes and pre-setting prefs and populating the feeds. Actually it was all very easy (I use Wise to creat an MSI transform).

Because our business has several distinct units, plus splits across industry lines we will designing our deployment to facilitate several pre-defined feed lists, of which a user may take one or all. The feeds are held in RSSBandit in the user’s profile Application Data\RSSBandit\subscriptions.xml. So we will have one deployment job sending the application with no feeds, just configuration. We will have several jobs that manipulate the subscriptions.xml file to manage predefined feeds. This will require a simple bit of VBScript, but should give us a great deal of flexibility.

So it looks like we’ve reached the first rung in adopting social software – viz. having a standard feed reader. And it’s still only January!

Roll on RSS

Had a great meeting. The IT Director was much more willing to get to the root of some issues than I had assumed. He’s backed the idea of using blogs internally to create a community of ‘techies’ spanning several countries and we’ll have a standard RSS new reader. So I got my wish!!
At the moment my favourite is RSSBandit, I’ve been using it for some time, but I cannot make head nor tail of the installer – I want to customise it for internal use. I’ll have to check on appdeploy.com. I’ll have a nose around for a ‘better than RSSBandit’ reader, but not for long.

Blogging software in use is still communityserver, I want to check out WordPress with IIS and Active Directory integration – something I have done with MediaWiki. But we’re all systems go.

Sametime to link to AIM, Yahoo and Google – and why Microsoft isn’t worried

IBM has announced plans to allow Lotus Sametime to work with three consumer based instant messaging platforms by mid-2006. AIM (from America Online) is the most popular instant messaging system by far, followed by Yahoo and Microsoft (the most obvious ommission from the list) and Google, as the new comer, way down. This integration utlises an industry standard called SIP.

This split with Microsoft is not unexpected. IBM and Microsoft are in a fierce battle to control the email and collaboration space within corporates. Unfortunately for IBM, Microsoft has one huge trump card that it is playing for all it’s worth – Office. In the same way that Microsoft used the Windows platform to win the browser war by embedding Internet Explorer into Windows, it is now embedding collaboration and presence into Office. Active Directory and Exchange will be the glue that enables everything to work.

With the next release (due 2007) in order to utilise Office to the full you will need to have:

  • Exchange (not Notes mail),
  • Microsoft Instant Messaging (not Sametime) and
  • Sharepoint Portal Services (not WebSphere or Documentum/Hummingbird).

In short, Office is the lever with which Microsoft will pry collaboration and email away from the likes of IBM, and I cannot see them loosing this battle. Will corporates really risk being unable to collaborate with their customers who are using the full Microsoft suite? I think not.

If this paints Microsoft in a poor light, I think they deserve it. There has been a lot of talk from Microsoft about adopting standards, becoming more open and integrating with other vendor products. In some areas this is true and I firmly believe Microsoft is changing (take their work with MOM as an example).

However, Microsoft is a large organisation run as hundreds of smaller businesses, and some are changing faster than others – and the Office group is changing very slowly – in this area the old habits of protectionism are still well entrenched.

Communicating via 2.0

Well, tomorrow I meet with the IT Director. I have 30 minutes to enthuse him on the use of news feeds/RSS as a means of communicating. One of my hooks will be the work that I have been doing to distill IT industry information for the senior management. I have been producing a regular newsletter called the Technology Update and have followed this up with a blog. I notice however, that the number of views remains appallingly low. I suspect there are 2 reasons for this:

  1. The target audience just read the Technology Update newsletter – at least some of them do, some are a bit sheepish if I talk to them about it. I estimate that about 70% actually read the thing.
  2. We don’t have a standard feed reader. The first rule in getting this technology working is to have a standard feed reader.

So, one of my desires from this meeting is to get backing from the director to adopt a standard feed reader. Then I would like him to see enough potential in RSS to sponsor trying it out on the IT department, on the basis that such a trial will prove or disprove the technology for wider adoption in the business.

I’ll post how successful I was tomorrow.